Territorial Development: Brighter Prospects for Rural WomenThe rural woman, and more so, the indigenous rural woman, epitomizes poverty in Latin America
Increasing urbanization and population concentration in the region’s cities has caused Latin America’s (L.A.) rural areas to be overlooked and neglected. Second to North America, Latin America is the region with the largest concentration of people in urban areas, where 75% of the total population is located1.
Without diminishing the importance of Latin America’s vibrant cities, we should also re-establish the strategic value of rural areas as hubs of economic and social growth, by driving production transformation, competitiveness and social and territorial inclusion for sustainable development.
By 2050, the world’s population will have reached 10 billion, and there will be a great demand for food to satisfy its needs.
A quarter of Latin America’s Economically Active Population (EAP) and 21% of its overall population (129 million people in 2015) in 33 countries live in rural areas, areas that produce the region’s food and protect the environment, thereby ensuring the sustainability of the planet. Their vast fertile plains, abundant sunshine and water resources (33% of the planet’s); the world’s largest tropical forest - the Amazon - which is considered to be a natural defense against climate change; marine areas with highly sought-after species and a wide array of mineral resources are just a few examples of why Latin America is considered to be the most resource-rich developing region in the world2.
By 2050, the world’s population will have reached 10 billion, and there will be a great demand for food to satisfy its needs. L.A. should prepare itself to become a strategic supplier by instituting better environmental practices, guaranteeing food security and the transfer of knowledge to its people3. Latin America’s rural areas have immense production and wealth generation potential, which should be exploited by transforming regional production, generating value added and creating higher-paying jobs to achieve greater inclusion and improved living conditions. Rural women will be essential if the region is to make the most of these opportunities.
There are 58 million Latin American rural women (48% of the rural population) and close to 20% of them are indigenous people4, who like their male counterparts, work primarily in agriculture. Rural employment, in absolute terms, has steadily increased in recent decades, despite the fact that, in relative terms, it has decreased, in comparison to the growth in urban areas. The relative weight of agricultural employment has also been declining5.
The increase in rural areas has been mainly due to the rise in female employment, whose average regional employment rate climbed from 32.4% in 1990 to 47.5% in 2010. The labor participation of rural women has grown by 45% over the last 20 years. However, this increase still lags far behind that of the men, which was 85.1% in 20106.
The increasing number of women employed in agriculture results, for the most part, from the integration of regional agriculture into the global economy, which has given many women the chance to earn their own income for the first time and therefore to be financially independent.
L.A. women engage in a wide range of activities - agricultural, non-agricultural and own-account –, which traditional statistical instruments recognize as domestic, rather than production endeavors, thus underestimating the extent of women’s contribution to production and the labor market7. For example, whereas the labor participation rate of women in agriculture in Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Uruguay is high (more than 50%), in countries like Chile, Cuba and Venezuela, it is very low (between 20% and 30%). These are countries in which adult women are the ones who perform these duties, or in the case of Bolivia and Guatemala, are countries in which female child labor is more common, as is the involvement of women older than 60 years8.
The region also has a large indigenous presence. In Panama alone, a country with 4,054,000 inhabitants, women make up 49.9% of the population, with a femininity index of 99. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of the total population reside in urban areas, 51% of them being women and 49% men. Thirty-three percent (33%) of the population are rural dwellers, 48% of which are women and 52% men9.
L.A. women engage in a wide range of activities - agricultural, non-agricultural and own-account –, which traditional statistical instruments recognize as domestic, rather than production endeavors, thus underestimating the extent of women’s contribution to production and the labor market.
Panama’s population is 12.3% indigenous (417,559 people), with a 50.9% to 49.1% ratio of men to women. Approximately 195,285 indigenous people live in the comarcas (autonomous indigenous regions) and the remaining 222,274 live elsewhere. Panama has eight ethnic groups - the Kuna, Ngäbe, Buglé, Emberá, Wounaan, Bokota, Teribe/Naso and Bri Bri peoples -, who reside both within and outside of five legally established comarcas, three at the provincial level (Kuna Yala, Emberá-Wounaan and Ngäbe-Buglé) and two at the municipal level (Kuna Wargandí y Kuna Madungandí).
United Nations (UN) data confirms that Panama is the world’s fastest growing economy, boasting sustained economic growth over the last decade (human development index of 0.765 over 1) - the 65th highest of 187 countries worldwide. Yet, its shows that inequality remains a prevalent issue (where the country’s ranking drops to 83rd position), more so when inequality data is disaggregated by gender, placing it in 107th position.
This inequality is concentrated in rural areas and mainly affects women, young people, and most of all, the indigenous population. Despite efforts to ensure equal opportunities for women, the disparities are still evident: an EAP of 49% versus 79.7% for men and a 5.3% female unemployment rate versus 3.3% for males, with the gap widening further in the 15 - 24 age bracket. Again, 39.6% of rural women do not have their own resources compared to 14% of men. In urban areas, the percentages are 28.1% and 5.8%, respectively.
Indigenous women have an overall fertility rate of 6.4 children per woman.
While access to basic rights has improved in some measure, the work is far from over. Throughout the years, illiteracy has been declining. However, in the comarcas, the rates are high: 30.8% in Ngäbe-Buglé, 28.3% in Kuna Yala, and 22.9% in Emberá. The incidence of chronic malnutrition in children under five is estimated to be 62% in the comarcas, in contrast to the 17.7% figure reported for the rest of the country. Indigenous women have an overall fertility rate of 6.4 children per woman. The rate is lower (4.6 children) for indigenous women living outside of these communities, who have greater access to health services, employment opportunities, education and other benefits10.
The infant mortality rate in these communities is 54.5 deaths per one thousand live births. Elsewhere, the figure is lower and is estimated at 33.2%11.
Notwithstanding the distinctive features of each country, the common denominators in the profile of Latin American rural women working in agriculture are as follows12:
They are mostly adults, with some level of participation by girls under 15 years of age. Have low levels of education, with the majority completing between 0 to 5 years of schooling, which is less than female workers in urban areas and rural men. High illiteracy rates, especially among adult women in rural areas. According to ECLAC / FAO data, the highest illiteracy rates have been observed in El Salvador (37.5%), Bolivia (45.8%), Guatemala (60.7%) and Peru (65.9%). They mainly undertake agricultural activities, but are often overworked, due to a sexual division of labor in which they balance activities for production and family consumption with care for children, the elderly and ailing family and community members. Earn limited or no income for strenuous labor, working as unpaid family members in agriculture or in the family’s self-feeding activities, in addition to their unpaid domestic activities, and therefore are dependent on men. Find wage employment mainly through temporary jobs, which offer limited social protection coverage and which create economic insecurity. Have limited access to land ownership and the management of inputs, to technology or to technological expertise. Suffer from a persistent income gap. Face double discrimination, first for being women and then for being indigenous. Receive limited recognition for their labor in reproduction-, production- and family consumption-related activities.
Sustainable and Integrated Territorial Development and the Master Plan for the Agriculture Sector of the Western Region (PMARO): providing opportunities for rural women
In keeping with the Government of Panama’s 2014 – 2019 Strategic Plan, “One Country”, CAF has developed a strategy for sustainable and integrated territorial development that promotes the generation of value added to drive productivity, technological development, employment, income and competitiveness in Panama.
Having undertaken working visits to various regions and assessing their potential, the Western Region – encompassing the provinces of Chiriquí, Bocas del Toro and the Ngäbe-Buglé Comarca -, was identified as a priority area to launch an unprecedented regional joint public-private sector initiative to boost sustainable development and regional competitiveness. This led to the formation of the Center for Competitiveness of Panama’s Western Region (CECOMRO), which is a forum managed by local associations with the support of CAF, for the purpose of strengthening business institutions. The initiative has met with remarkable success during its short existence and this is a model worth replicating.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) and CECOMRO, and at their request, CAF funded a diagnostic study and the development of a roadmap to reposition agricultural activity in this region, with the technical support of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), bearing in mind that agricultural activity is the engine of production and of the local economy.
The solid technical foundation of IICA’s study, in addition to CECOMRO’s keen interest in repositioning the agriculture sector and the steadfast support of MIDA and of Juan Carlos Varela, President of the Republic, gave rise to the development of the Master Plan for the Agriculture Sector of the Western Region (PMARO). In order to execute the plan, MIDA has injected US $155 million of government funds into the project, through a loan from CAF, and US $27.6 million has been earmarked for the first phase. IICA will continue to provide technical support and CECOMRO has committed to investing US $402 million over a seven-year period.
The region is the major producer of food in the country and PMARO has prioritized the agricultural chains that offer the most promise: cocoa, coffee, meat, dairy, plantain and vegetables. The Plan is predicated on an intense investment program for the application of agricultural best practices, building the technological capacity of producers and reducing trade gaps by offering a competitive supply of commodities in the volumes required by national and international markets. Fifteen thousand organized producers will benefit directly and the plan stands to have a significant impact on the region. It is estimated that of the 65,000 individuals working in agriculture (including landowners and workers), 53,000 (81%) will be affected by the PMARO program, including those who will benefit from the creation of more than 10,000 thousand new quality jobs in primary agricultural production.
The Plan seeks to address the major weaknesses that have been identified, such as the wide geographic dispersion of producers and their weak linkages; low productivity; limited negotiating skills; poor organization of supplies; the absence of quality standardization; high levels of waste in local wholesale networks; low prices paid to the producer and inconsistencies in quality.
PMARO provides an opportunity to reduce gender gaps in Panama’s agriculture sector. Consequently, MIDA, CAF and CECOMRO have incorporated gender into the project, establishing Social, Ethnic and Gender Equality as “Principles and Guidelines” of PMARO, recognizing, respecting and providing equal treatment to all ethnic groups and their members – both male and female – living within the area of intervention.
Strengthening networking and entrepreneurship among women will reduce their isolation and prompt them to join associations that have developed business plans to access inputs, tools and technology.
Moreover, the program has been structured to ensure that equivalent goods and services are provided to both men and women, to develop their potential, capacity, skills and their intellectual, physical and emotional abilities, while offering them comparable social, economic, political and cultural opportunities. It facilitates the just and equitable participation of women in each of the seven programs, affording them a level of participation, in keeping with the provisions of Panamanian law. It offers the rural female producer access to technical training, inputs, equipment, technology and fair wages, to improve living conditions for herself and her family and to boost her self-esteem and personal and productive development, thereby contributing to improving agricultural productivity in the region.
One of the first steps will be to train employees involved in implementing the Plan in issues related to the gender perspective and its application, as well as to promote a gender balance in technical staff. PMARO will utilize extension activities and technology transfer as key tools to foster the inclusion of women.
Strengthening networking and entrepreneurship among women will reduce their isolation and prompt them to join associations that have developed business plans to access inputs, tools and technology, allowing members to increase their assets and production output and those of the association. They are encouraged to participate in decision-making, including in defining agendas, and in issues related to the formalizing of property ownership, access to financing, inter alia.
Women’s role in water management is being promoted, through the provision of specialized training in water source management through the transfer of technical knowledge about irrigation and water harvesting.
The demand for labor, in the short-term, offers an opportunity to increase the inclusion of women in the workforce, promoting equal wages and emphasizing their value to production and social development by demonstrating that when women earn, more is invested in improvements for the family, particularly for children – in health, education and nutrition -, which strengthens the local human capital.
Proposed improvement measures
In order to highlight the value of rural areas to Latin America, create wealth and improve the living conditions of a quarter of its population, we recommend the following:
The rural woman, and more so, the indigenous rural woman, epitomizes poverty in Latin America.
Promote government policies and actions to increase awareness of the potential of national sub-regions: identifying any resources that they have and that may be exploited for production purposes and driving the creation of value added to generate employment and higher wages for the most disadvantaged rural communities. Facilitate “State and Market” support. State - by fostering public investments in connectivity infrastructure (highways, ports, airports, railways, telecommunications) and basic services (drinking water and sanitation, health, electricity, education) and Market - by attracting national and international private investment in potential areas that have been identified for entrepreneurial and local business development. Drive private and public investment in modernization and the infusion of technology into agricultural activities, through the use of environmental practices that boost productivity and agro exports.
The rural woman, and more so, the indigenous rural woman, epitomizes poverty in Latin America. Therefore, for genuine sustainable development to become a reality, it is imperative that actions seek to improve the living conditions of women and to enhance their technical and productive development, thereby enabling them to progress as individuals, as the nucleus of the rural family and as major contributors to the economy and to the community. This calls for:
The eradication of illiteracy and increased levels of schooling and education through creative public and private initiatives, emphasizing practical, technical, and production knowledge that will yield benefits, in the short-term. The eradication of child and maternal malnutrition, through the delivery of health and nutrition services to guarantee healthy and productive future generations. The education of women and men about nutritional, sexual and reproduction issues. The introduction or expansion of the supply of basic services for drinking water, sanitation, schools and nurseries that will help to reduce women’s share of the domestic workload. Communication and public awareness campaigns in schools, homes, community centers, churches and municipalities to promote a culture of equal opportunities for men and women in domestic activities, at school and at work. The incorporation of women and their entrepreneurial initiatives into agricultural value chains, by providing the requisite technical and financial assistance to guarantee the sustainability of these businesses within the chains. The creation of entrepreneurial associations of rural women to improve their access to markets and to satisfy the demand. A review of the legal frameworks that impede women’s access to land ownership and the elimination of any gender bias in agricultural transformation policies that exclude women as direct beneficiaries. Strengthening of the leadership, negotiation and conflict resolution skills of rural women, as a means of building community empowerment.”
Exploiting the wealth of the region’s rural areas and promoting the development of its communities will lead to greater territorial, economic and social inclusion, to counterbalance urban development in our countries.
Greater participation by rural women in the economy and in the society and more involvement by men in family and domestic duties will result in more developed and productive societies.
CAF. (2010). Visión para América Latina 2040. Hacia una sociedad más incluyente y próspera. Caracas: CAF. Available in Spanish only at: http://scioteca.caf.com/handle/123456789/496
Cliche, G. 2016. Enfoque territorial para el empoderamiento de las mujeres rurales en América latina y el Caribe. Informe de Consultoría del Centro Latinoamericano para el Desarrollo Rural (RIMISP) United Nations Organization for Women (UN Women).
Daude, C., Fajardo, G., Brassiolo, P., Estrada, R., Goytia, C., Sanguinetti, P., Vargas, J. (2017). RED 2017. Urban growth and access to opportunities: a challenge for Latin America. Bogotá: CAF. Available at http://scioteca.caf.com/handle/123456789/1091
ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean). 2015. CEPALSTAT.
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FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations). 2011. Committee on World Food Security (CFS). Gender, Food Security and Nutrition. Policy Recommendations. 4 p. Available at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-av040e.pdf
IICA (Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture) 2015. Diagnóstico del Plan Maestro del Agro. Panama.
ILO (International Labor Organization. 2012. Panorama Laboral América Latina y el Caribe. Lima, Peru. 112 p. Available in Spanish only at: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---americas/---ro-lima/documents/publication/wcms_195884.pdf
INEC - National Statistics and Census Institute. 2010 Population Census. Panama.
Nobre, M; Hora,K; Brito, C; Parada, S. 2017. Atlas de las Mujeres Rurales de América Latina y El Caribe: “Al tiempo de la vida y los hechos”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Santiago de Chile. 82 p. Available in Spanish only at: http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7916s.pdf
1 Daude, C., Fajardo, G., Brassiolo, P., Estrada, R., Goytia, C., Sanguinetti, P., … Vargas, J. (2017). RED 2017. Crecimiento urbano y acceso a oportunidades: un desafío para América Latina. Bogotá: CAF. Available at: http://scioteca.caf.com/handle/123456789/1091.
2 CAF. (2010). Visión para América Latina 2040. Hacia una sociedad más incluyente y próspera. Caracas: CAF. Available at: http://scioteca.caf.com/handle/123456789/496.
3 Emerging Markets Forum. (2016). The World in 2050: striving for a more just, prosperous and harmonious global community. Washington D.C. HARINDER S. KOHLI. Spanish version available at: http://scioteca.caf.com/handle/123456789/904.
4 Nobre, M; Hora,K; Brito, C; Parada, S. 2017. Atlas de las Mujeres Rurales de América Latina y El Caribe: “Al tiempo de la vida y los hechos”. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Santiago de Chile. 82 p.
5 ILO (International Labor Organization). 2012. Panorama Laboral América Latina y el Caribe. Lima, Peru. 112 p.
6 ILO. 2012. Id.
7 ILO. 2012. Id.
8 ILO. 2012. Id.
9 ECLAC (Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. 2015. CEPALSTAT.
10 INEC (National Statistics and Census Institute). 2010 Population Census. Panama.
11 INEC. 2010. Id.
12 Nobre. Loc. cit.